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Mr. Holmes (2015)
Profoundly moving - an analogy for life
I admit from outset that Ian McKellen can do almost no wrong in my book, but even given the nuance and character that made his Gandalf so utterly likable in Lord of the Rings, he managed to surpass himself in this deeply moving movie.
The movie touches upon themes of isolation, regret, and the fear of a life concluded with important things left undone.
The movie is set on three interwoven stages. The predominant one is a very elderly Mr Holmes spending what will be his last years, in his country cottage, attended by his housekeeper and her young son. The boy views Holmes as a mentor, and a surrogate father/grandfather. Holmes views the boy with affection, but his relationship with the lad is complicated by the emotions of his mother who wants to spare the boy the pain of Holmes eventual demise, whilst planning for her future after his passing.
The second stage regards Holmes last case, and one which evokes very strong feelings in him. As this thread comprises the main mystery element, I'll say no more, except to remark that this part of the story reflects the overall tone of the movie, which is to say that you'll find no chases or sword fights. Rather it deals with the nature of loss and regret.
The third stage is trivial compared to the other two, yet it's used to highlight Holmes' increasing frailty and to highlight the extent of his humanity.
The last 15 minutes picks up in intensity wonderfully whilst never straying from the gentle humanity that characterises the rest of the story. I went from the verge of tears to elation in the space of 5 minutes, and at the end, I found the entire story deeply satisfying.
The story felt very much like a shadowing of McKellen's own mortality, but I very much hope he has many more years left to him yet.
All of the acting was uniformly superb, without ever being obtrusive or charicaturish. Very happy I finally got around to watching this.
I don't like to give 10s (never given one yet) but I can't think of a single reason to withhold points.
All the budget none of the heart
Massive fan of the original, but like the remake of Carpenter's The Fog, Poltergeist is utterly lacking in heart. Instead it's a series of almost disconnected, utterly illogical set pieces.
The script is abysmal, and whereas the original was genuinely suspenseful and engrossing, this pallid remake substitutes bangs, loud noises and sudden camera moves for what the original had.
The characters are all irrational within the bounds of normal human behaviour. For example:
1. A little boy fearful of everything in a new neighbourhood is placed in the most remote and unwelcoming room in the house 2. Little boy freaks out over major supernatural trauma and is utterly ignored by family. 3. Little boy attacked by tree (and teen daughter attacked by hands through floor)is IMMEDIATELY abandoned whilst the family searches for missing girl. 4. Teenage girl attacked from the underworld then spends the rest of the movie casually and unconcernedly lounging around on the couch. 5. Paranormal researcher having seen chairs THAT HE IS ABOUT TO SIT ON hurled across the room yet is still sceptical that the whole thing is a hoax, then when a terrifying major paranormal event occurs to him, he tells no one.
I could go on, but suffice it to say that this movie is such a pathetic piece of dross that the scriptwriter and directors should hang their heads in shame.
Abysmal - on every level
With a movie like this, where the monster AND plot are revealed in the movie poster, there can be only two things that make it worth watching: the quality of the effects, or the quality of the story leading to the monster parts.
Let's start with the first: if you thought that the rubber creature in the old 1960s swamp creature was a low that was 50 years in the past, think again - the fish in this movie is as unrealistic as it's possible to be. Not even animatronic. Just a crappy crappy crappy lump of rubber with a mouth that opens and shuts - and none of the nuances that might give it life: flexible skin, realistic eyes, variable swimming motion, a sense of aggression - no. Instead, just this big dumb lump of rubber that floats around the lake like a submarine with all the menace of an inflatable lilo.
And now the story. There's no level on which this crappy waste of 90 minutes is plausible. Clearly all of the major characters hate each other except slut and native American style flower child, so why the hell would any of them choose to spend the day together?
And then there's the fact that they ARE all just painfully uninspired stereotypes:
Spoiled jock Irritating nerd Treacherous slut Evil ruthless brother Beautiful silent type flower child Mysterious brooding old guy who lives by lake
But just put the uninspired characterisation to one side, if you can do so, and try to work out the logic of the movie.
Big dangerous fish in lake and we have no oars because we dumb nyuck nyuck. we sacrifice someone create distraction. Then take no advantage of distraction, once, twice, three, four times, repeating the same pathetically unbelievable little melodrama until the entire party is in the water getting eaten by super slow rubberfish, until finally, forced to swim, dumb jock makes a break for it.
If I had written this pile of crap, I'd be ashamed to be credited. From start to predictably feeble finish, there is not a single saving grace.
Acting -nope Plot - nope Originality - nope B movie schlocky entertainment - nope Creature effects - definitely nope
Do yourself a massive favour - swim on by this piece of garbage.
Ender's Game (2013)
Lots of glitz, completely devoid of substance
The basic premise of the movie is an interesting one, and like Gravity, there's lots of spectacular camera work and effects, but once you get beyond that, you realise how little substance there is to the movie.
Rather than skilfully building a movie by developing the plot and taking the characters on a journey, each character comes fully completed in his/her final form from the first second you see them on the screen. From start to finish, the movie is nothing but a series of feel-good snapshots, rather than a well developed story.
The movie is nothing more than one stereotype after another, bound together by the most ridiculous logic from start to finish.
The frustrating thing is, it had so much potential and the characters were mostly tremendously likable - not that they had much chance to be anything but.
The movie feels like nothing but a series of set pieces, but lacks any meat. But for all that, thanks to spectacular use of technology, Ender's Game does manage to be extremely watchable, even if it leaves you feeling utterly cheated at the end.
To be honest, it's a movie that had me asking WTF from start to finish, so to have a ridiculous, unrealistic ending in which the main character acts in a way (and allowed to act that way by his superiors) that defeats the entire purpose of the rest of the movie, is no less lazy than the rest of the film.
An outstanding cast could have been given so much more to chew on.
I'd like to read the book to see if Card did better, but since I discovered he's a bigot, I don't want to let him have any of my money.
Polished visuals elevate this movie higher than it deserves
Gravity is one of those movies that is a great watch, but when you get to the end, you realise how utterly contrived and lacking in substance it was. I was particularly irritated but the perfect timing and convenience of the disasters. One, even two would have been plausible, but seven was just stretching credibility (3 debris hits, the suit air supply, Clooney's thruster fuel, the fire on the Russian station, and the Russian shuttle's lack of fuel).
The very opening premise seemed to me to be flawed - after all, it seems extremely unlikely that of the millions of square miles of potential orbital trajectories, the debris would happen share the exact same flight path as all three international space missions. After all, who places geo-stationary objects in the orbital path of a satellite (and if they weren't geo-stationary, how did the debris catch them)? As a piece of switch your brain off story-telling, Gravity was masterful - it had pacing, pathos, emotion, and in spite of the fact that most of the movie features a single actress not interacting with anyone, it never felt laboured or boring. However, you must understand that this movie is all style and no substance.
Ignore the incongruity of a medical doctor working on a space telescope - ignore the incongruity of navigating an escape vehicle a hundred miles on landing jets only, ignore all of the many plot holes, and you are left with a movie that is still implausible on every conceivable level.
Yet for all that, damn it, I still liked it. I think it's because humans have an innate love of the concept of space, and weightlessness, which this movie brought to life superbly.
I see people calling this best space movie ever. It wasn't. Sunshine, Mission to Mars, Event Horizon, Outland, even Alien, did space better than this, but Gravity is certainly supremely polished and tightly edited, although the entire Indian lullaby scene left me cold.
Overall, worth the watch solely for the quality of the space re-creation - everything else is a bonus.
Skinwalker Ranch (2013)
An utter dogs dinner of a movie
This movie is supposedly inspired by actual events - in the same way that Robin Hood Men in Tights is inspired by the life of Robin of Locksley! In actual fact, it's a turgid piece of dross that plagiarises every bad camcorder-perspective movie out there.
It can't decide if it wants to be The Ring, Blair Witch, Cloverfield or Paranormal Activity - it has elements of all, but manages to be so much worse than the sum of its underwhelming parts.
MANY SPOILERS INCLUDING THE IMMENSELY YAWNSOME ENDING BELOW!!!!
Skinwalker ranch is a real place, steeped with the silly superstitions of many a plains region, but the movie makers have taken the basic idea and thrown literally every stupid cliché possible at it; ghosts, alien abduction, giant monsters, possession, black ops, and more. To make things worse, almost every time anything happens, it's from the security monitor view, which shows interference to show that "an event" is occurring, and of course, making it hard to see what is actually happening. All other paranormal events either happen in the dark, or with super fast action so that it's impossible to get your teeth into anything substantive.
Random "clues" are thrown at you throughout, but as the little boy literally vanishes in a flash of light in the opening scene, the alien connection is established from the start, so the disjointed and utterly arbitrary clues are all but pointless.
The basic concept is reminiscent of the infinitely superior Gibson flick Signs, but unlike that movie which reached a satisfying, if nauseatingly treacly Christian conclusion, this one heavy-handedly rushes to a frantic but unsatisfying crescendo, culminating in a Cloverfield-type reveal of an alien space craft without bothering to offer even the vaguest hint of an explanation. It's like the director just shouted "nasty aliens" then yawned out of the studio in disinterest.
Ignore marais-Alexander's review - this person is a clear plant, and I'm suspicious about erraticchevy's review too. I scare easily, but this was pathetic. Expect to see the current 5.3 score plummet as more genuine viewers dilute the high scores given by the people connected to this movie.
Europa Report (2013)
A slow burner that appeals on an intellectual level
I'd love to give this movie a much higher score, but it lacked the skillful crafting that could have transformed it from fascinating to incredible.
In the same way that small budget sci fis like Dark Star or even the early seasons of Red Dwarf manage to be both compelling and believable in spite of their limited scope, Europa Report, didn't need a million locations or space ships pew pew pewing across the screen.
There have been a slew of slow-burn sci fi exploration movies over the past 10 years, where a large portion of the action is set in the claustrophobic, yet plausible confines of the ship - Sunshine, Mission to Mars, Red Planet, and others. This was not as good as any of them, nor as slick, but the concept was far more intellectually appealing; namely the search for life on the most likely body in our solar system to actually hold it.
In some senses, this movie seemed to be designed to appeal to scientists, and astronomers not movie goers. The "dramas" such as they were, were really understated and clumsily contrived, and that is where this movie fails in relation to the others I mentioned.
Nevertheless, its inexorable, tip-toe towards the final reveal is believable and ultimately as profound as it is satisfying.
This is a movie that will appeal if the mere THOUGHT of a black hole is enough to fill you with wonder, and set your mind pondering for half an hour.
Whilst the actual pacing and dynamics of the movie left an awful lot to be desired, I shall doubtless watch the final ten minutes dozens of times.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
A blatant Die Hard rip-off, but with far less credibility
This movie transplants Die Hard 1 from Nakatoma Plaza to the White House, but other than that, all the major plot elements are near identical - super-genius villain, personal interest (this time played by the President's son rather than Maclane's wife), unbelievable hacking skills, idiotic rescue forces, superhuman man on the inside who knows best, and more besides.
The movie insults you at every turn, starting with the ease with which the white house is captured, and the gross stupidity of the special forces, and the secret service agents. But by far the most egregious, and most idiotic plot premise, is the idea that nukes that haven't been launched or even armed yet, can now be ordered to self destruct in their own silos.
Then there's the premise that South Korea would be left defenceless simply to save the life of the President. And of course, the other unbelievable premise is that not only are the only three people with the codes to disarm the nukes all EVER in the same place at the same time, but that such a vital function would even depend upon such a fallible failsafe in the first place. So once the nukes have been accidentally launched, if just one of the three civilians entrusted with their self destruct codes is incapacitated or unavailable, that's it - no way of cancelling?!
The entire premise that Butler's character has shamed himself, is nonsense. An unavoidable disaster occurs - he takes exactly the right action, when the president is messing around wasting time, and saves the president's life. If the president had complied quicker, his wife could also have been saved.
Olympus artlessly manipulates your emotions at every turn, but for all that, it did have some good moments. Butler makes a far more compassionate and likable hero than Bruce Willis. If you can leave every trace of your intelligence at the door, it's not bad for its action content, but its cerebral content is non-existent.
The Colony (2013)
Trite, unrealistic nonsense
I'm always up for a good post-apocalyptic drama, and this one sounded good on paper, but wasted no time in disappointing.
An unimaginative mixture between Ghosts of Mars, I am Legend, and The Day After Tomorrow, this movie was a dreadful waste of the acting talents of many actors who deserved better.
There were two basic themes in this movie: the power struggle between the prosaic but ruthless Mason, played by Bill Paxton, and the humane, idealistic people lead by Zegers. However, Paxton's character was developed with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face.
The other theme was the descent of humanity into barbarism, as represented by the cannibals, lead by Dru Viergever. His character was a literal rip off of the feral in Ghosts of Mars, complete with filed teeth, and he was equally unrealistically superhuman. At least the one in Ghosts was possessed by an alien spirit!
There were so many unrealistic choices made by the characters at every turn, culminating with the most stupid of all - the expedition into the snow of a deep ice age - the very snow that nearly killed the hero just one day earlier, but now, rather than wearing arctic gear and carrying copious supplies, women and a child intend to walk a huge distance totally unprepared and wearing light anoraks. And this is supposed to be the bright new beginning...
Lazy scripting from start to finish. If your expectations are low enough, this is vaguely entertaining.
Episode 50 (2011)
A promising premise very weakly done
The premise of this movie is perfectly sound: cynical paranormal researchers get to investigate the most haunted place ever in order to prove to a dying man who has lived an evil life that there is no afterlife. However, to balance them out (and give the plot some tension), they are teamed with a rival Christian team who believes in everything. The only problem is, within 5 minutes in the asylum, the sceptics seem to believe in all supernatural events as much as their Christian rivals.
As the two teams do their stuff, they are stalked and toyed with by various apparitions, leading them to an unbelievably cheesy confrontation with a demon at the end.
The director gives away far too much too early, and instead of framing everything in a context whereby the phenomena are less certain to the sceptical team, he blows his load in the first quarter of the movie, leaving you without suspense, tension, or horror.
The reality show idea had a lot of promise, but instead this entire movie ended up becoming nothing more than a tedious Christian tract with a tedious and blatant morality punchline.